Part 2 in the series “Getting Into the Study Groove” – See the end of this post for more segments in the series.
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi lists nine different characteristics of the “flow” state, and so far we’ve looked at how the first two–clear/attainable goals and focus–can help us reach study zen. Let’s take a look at the next two.
(3) Distorted sense of time. When you get into the flow, you get all Rip-Van-Winkle. You’ll look up and realize large chunks of your life have tiptoed silently past your study carel and are now lounging about the in the hallway pestering the librarians.
Solution: Set a timer. Your cell phone probably has one built in. If you ‘ve turned off your self phone in a desperate bid for distraction destruction, you may need a watch or egg timer instead.
I kid you not; you will need it. I used to be the worst about getting distracted (I could daydream on a roller-coaster),
but using the concentration techniques in this series, I regularly forget to eat! I like to eat … a LOT. But time completely disappears when I’m in the zone. If I forget to set my timer, my stomach will eventually start gnawing on my backbone wondering if my throat has been cut.
So set your timer and get to work. BONUS: Knowing that your time is under control will free you up to fully concentrate on the task at hand.
(4) Loss of self-awareness. When you really get into that flow state, you forget all about yourself. You forget to feel worried, afraid, or anxious. You become so completely absorbed in what you are doing that all your personal concerns just drop away.
Sometimes our greatest distractions don’t come from environmental factors–like the TV or the cell phone or the smokin’ girl that just sashayed past to the sound of hearts shattering in her wake–but from our own heads. We can’t stop worrying about that upcoming court hearing (or is that just me) or whether or not Jim and Pam will actually get back together (she’s at art school and New York is soooo far away from Scranton … long distance relationships never work. Aaargh!)
Slick trick: Keep a pad of paper handy to write down those nagging thoughts, worries, or ideas. Make a deal with yourself to give attention to the items on your pad as soon as the study session is over.
Our brains have figured out that if they don’t keep poking us (“Did you finish that paper yet? … How ’bout now? … Now? … How ’bout now?”) we’ll drop the ball. Normally that’s a good thing, but it can completely snarf our ability to concentrate. Just writing that gad-fly thought down and promising yourself you’ll get to it soon is often enough to allow your mind to take a nag-break.